Psilocybin (sy-lo-sy-bin) is the psychedelic ingredient that makes magic mushrooms so magical. Recent studies find that psilocybin could help patients diagnosed with deadly diseases work past the depression and anxiety that accompanies them.
Research and studies on psychoactive compounds have been going on since the 1960s, before the drug was classified illegal. To this day the research all says the same thing:
Psychedelics could help alleviate depression and anxiety.
“When people are diagnosed with cancer, their lives can become constricted,” suggests Jeffrey Guss, a psychiatrist at NYU School of Medicine. “They sometimes cope with terror and sadness by shutting down – they start to die before they actually do die. But with psychedelics, there is a flood of information, making people feel less shut down and more awake and alive.”
I have read a number of articles and studies following several patients. All the patients went through the same process: they were brought into a very comfortable room with soft tones and soft couches, given a pill, an eye mask, and asked to lie down.
“They start to die before they actually do die.”
They didn’t know whether they’d be getting a placebo or a psilocybin pill. When they were dosed with the psilocybin, they would lay back and travel inwards. Estalyn Walcoff, 64, a patient with untreatable aggressive lymphoma, was sure she would die.
No one had ever beaten the form of cancer she was diagnosed with. The most positive option she could give herself was, “I may beat this”. There were no certainties in her life and she felt very anxious. She told her doctors she had toyed with psychoactives in her twenties, “to taste what could be tasted, to touch what could be touched.”
It had been an experiment to open her mind to a world of experiences, a world of possibilities. Now, it was an experiment to go into her mind and get past certain hurdles. To keep all possibilities open, instead of shutting herself down.
Open The Possibilities
The same is true for Nick Fernandez, a 27-year-old cancer patient who took the pill the doctor gave him, laid down on a couch, and an hour later, watched his own funeral. The psychedelic drug had him floating through his fears and anxieties, then it separated him from them.
“Something inside me snapped and I experienced a profound psychic shift that made me realise all my anxieties, defences and insecurities weren’t something to worry about.”
Watching his own funeral was a horrifying, amazing experience. He described it as a “hellish place littered with skulls that smelled of death,” where he was in excruciating pain. But when that shift was made he felt a greater power and had a greater understanding of the earth that he had never felt before.
Deborah Ames, a breast-cancer survivor, had a similar experience, floating through time and space until she hit a wall – a crematorium wall. She knew she was inside. “I’ve died,” she thought, “and now I’m going to be cremated.”
Live In Peace
Instead of the pain and anxiety she expected and was used to feeling, she felt peace. “The next thing I know, I’m below the ground in this gorgeous forest… There are roots all around me and I’m seeing the trees growing, and I’m part of them. It didn’t feel sad or happy, just natural, contented, peaceful. I wasn’t gone. I was part of the earth.”
Gina Baker, who beat ovarian cancer said this of her experience: “Under the influence of the drug, I saw my fear as a big black mass and I felt like I was going to be eaten alive. And then suddenly, the fear just disappeared and I felt enveloped in intense love, more deep and profound than I have ever felt, and not just for my family and dear friends but I felt at one with the universe. It was a moment of complete peace and lack of self consciousness.”
When the trip was over, Gina’s anxiety was as well. “It liberated me from my anxieties. It was a transformative experience.”
With medical and technological advances, psilocybin is now much better understood. Classified as a tryptamine, structurally similar to serotonin, psilocybin works by latching to serotonin receptors, which, when stimulated, enhance our sensory inputs, triggers visuals, and loosens ego-boundaries.
This is known as the “psychedelic experience” but may soon be known as a “transformative experience” for those suffering from mental anguish and stressors relating to traumatic events or periods in one’s life.
Back to Estalyn Walcoff
When she was given the psilocybin pill she fell into her anxiety. She felt she was going through physical and emotional pain.
To Estalyn, it was “the pain of the Earth itself,” and she was somehow holding it. This was the worst pain and fear and anxiety she had ever felt, and without it she would not have been able to feel the strength and openness and awe she now feels.
“The fear, as it decreased, transformed itself into this open heart which was able to receive these lessons.”
When someone who lives in fear of a rare and untreatable disease can feel compassion, not only for the world but for herself, she can finally feel good. She is free from this crushing injustice she had felt for so long. There’s no better way to put it than Estalyn put it:
“It’s such a gift.”
The psilocybin gave her a moment of grace which hasn’t gone away. She’s not a changed person – she’s enlightened. She no longer feels the weight of anxiety.Has a stronger understanding of the world.
She understands the interconnectedness of the world, and realizes that further study and use of psilocybin would further dissolve fear and anxiety.
Depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses are not always formed because of a loop of negative thoughts, but often come accompanied by them. Psilocybin breaks the negative cycle by making new connections across different areas of the brain.
More enlightening, mind-opening, world-expanding research needs to be done on this amazing potential medicine that helps free the minds of those who suffer.